Mental health disorders and substance abuse disorder affect millions of people in the United States each year. These disorders are often under diagnosed by healthcare professionals, overlooked by the media and carry a negative stigma within our society. Over the years, more recognition and awareness has been raised however our society can continue to make strides towards strengthening our mental health community. National Prevention Week is an annual national awareness week that takes place in during the third week in May (May15th-20th this year) in order to improve community involvement, enhance mental health partner engagement and increase mental health recourse sharing on a community, state and national level. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) the three primary goals of this annual awareness week are the following:

  • Involve communities in raising awareness about behavioral health issues and implementing prevention strategies;
  • Foster partnerships and collaboration with federal agencies and national organizations dedicated to behavioral and public health; and
  • Promote and disseminate quality behavioral health resources and publications

Studies have shown that adolescents and college students are more likely to use drugs for the first time during the months of June or July. Additionally crime rates among young individuals increase in the summer. This is most likely because young individuals are on break from school in the summer, home from college and have more and have more free time than usual to spend with their friends, resulting in seeking out other opportunities that maybe harmful to themselves and others. As a result, National Prevention Week for Mental Health and Substance Abuse takes place in May to try to prevent first-time drug use among young individuals from occurring.

Each day of National Prevention Week focuses on a specific health theme. The themes for National Prevention Week 2017 are:

  • Prevention of Youth Tobacco Use: Monday, May 15
  • Prevention of Underage Drinking & Alcohol Misuse: Tuesday, May 16
  • Prevention of Prescription & Opioid Drug Misuse: Wednesday, May 17
  • Prevention of Illicit Drug Use & Youth Marijuana Use: Thursday, May 18
  • Prevention of Suicide: Friday, May 19
  • Promotion of Mental Health & Wellness: Saturday, May 20

Statistics for mental health and substance abuse disorders in the United States

Approximately 44 million adults in the U.S. experienced some form of mental illness in 2014 and approximately 20 million adults were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. Of these, eight million individuals had both a substance abuse and a mental health disorder known as a co-occurring disorder. The most common mental health disorders among adults in the United States include depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Eating disorders are also prevalent mental health disorders and are known to have the highest mortality rates out of all mental health disorders. Common mental health disorders diagnosed in childhood include as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is diagnosed in approximately 11 percent of children four to 17 years of age. Commonly abused substance includes alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids and cocaine. These disorders are multifactorial meaning that many causes can contribute to the onset however genetics, past trauma, life stressors, poor coping skills, separation during childhood, low self esteem, an imbalance in neurotransmitters and harmful relationships are all known underlying triggers that are known to contribute to these disorders.

Suicide rates linked to mental health and substance abuse disorders

Seeking help for mental health disorder and substance addiction is imperative in order to live a healthy and successful life. Avoiding treatment can result in severe complications such as broken relationships, financial hardships, homelessness, imprisonment, and even suicide. Mental health and substance abuse disorders are strongly linked to suicide attempts. According to statistics, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, in 2015, adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 12.5 percent and females are more likely to attempt suicide than males however males die by suicide 3.5 times more than females.

  • People with severe alcohol dependency or alcoholism have increased risk for suicide.
  • Depression and other mood disorders are involved with the majority of suicides; substance abusers have profoundly increased rates of depression. Left untreated, substance abuse worsens the outcomes of mood disorders.
  • Suicide attempts occur more often within the context of a binge-drinking episode.
  • People whose drinking causes trouble at work are six times as likely as others to die by suicide in the home.
  • Problem drinkers who have been hospitalized for reasons related to alcohol abuse have ten times the risk of suicide, compared to problem drinkers not so hospitalized.
  • If a person who is dependent on alcohol also uses cocaine the risk rises significantly.
  • The risk of suicide among alcoholics increases over time; suicide risk is highest after 10 or more years of having drinking problems.